Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lucidity Comes in Liquid Form

Everything I ever needed to know I learned on the swim.

I did fast 100s. My heart beat so hard, felt so large, that I was sure it was going to leap out of my rib cage and make a splashy entrance into the water below me.

My heart was full, sitting there doing her nails. In all honesty, she was a difficult grandma. She was a don't-touch-that grandma. But last week, I sat at a table with her, soaking her chemotherapy-hardened fingernails and toenails, clipping them, filing them and then rubbing in balm to fend off the itchy, thick skin. My mom was there. My sister-in-law, various nieces and nephews ran in and out. We talked. We laughed. She stayed there with us, with all of that chaotic kid and family noise. She stayed even though her head bobbed with tiredness. She was saying all of the things she'd never said. She said them eloquently with all that staying.

My plane landed in Denver on Sunday night and my phone rang. I thought my heart would burst, make a splashy entrance into the sunlit Colorado air that surrounded me. I wanted it to burst, to paint the sky with a rainbow, to tell Grandma that 89 years was just enough to thank a daughter, to woo a grand-daughter, to be heard.

Your arms reach and pull, all muscles seriously scrabbling for more purchase, more glide, more speed.

It clicked for me. How to climb the mountain was clear. I learned it from swimming. I needed to bend down, crawl like a monkey - on my hands and feet, my core tight, my arms scrabbling for purchase in the slippery scree. I needed to forgo oxygen and push through in bursts. I clued in the climbers nearest me - my nephew and my sister. In less than an hour, they would summit their first fourteener. I would stand there with two of my sisters, transported from our lives on a rural Wisconsin dairy farm when there was guaranteed Holstein shit under our fingernails for the first 18 years of our lives, up to that place that defies words... though my sister, in rushing bursts, tried... "It's all so amazing... It's nothing like I'd ever imagined it would be... every step of it... but how could I have imagined this...?"

I stretched, long and lean in the water. I was all glide and no effort. I flipped and repeated.

Do you ever get the feeling that what you are doing - in this precise moment - is exactly what you were meant to do, that you have been training all of your life for just this moment? That your neurons, your fibers, your very self is in harmony with this place? Do you ever wonder how you got there? Do you shake your head at the very odd confabulation of events that led to it?

I end this piece on a packing night. I will be on a plane again tomorrow. Going to a funeral, reuniting with my family - to grieve, to celebrate. I take with me Colorado sunshine. I take with me the sweet stillness of a good swim. I take with me peace - and the ability to be ever-surprised.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ample Spread

I feel the ample spread
when I sit down in my chair
My hips and thighs
quashing any resistance
from the chair
the loveseat
even the couch can hold
no truck with them
This truckload o' me
brooks no opposition

And while I'm bitchin'...

My hair is streaked with silver
I've got cottage cheese
- and not just on my plate -


My ample spread
not only the state of my
buttocks and thighs
but also my frame of mind
I'm comfortable where I am
wide-ranging and free

So keep your skinny hips
and your 6-pack abs
I'm comfortable with
my ample spread
my horn of plenty
my plethora
the bottomless pit o' me
(No pictures with this post though.)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

DNS Mountain Style

I Did Not Summit today, but Mount Yale was kind enough to reward me with one of the best failures of my life.

This hike comes out of the gate in your face, ascending brutally from the get-go. Up-up. So it goes onward and upward for about a mile, and then you leave the hard-packed snowmobile trail. You think the snow is crusty enough to support you - and about 70% of the time it is. So you slog along, breaking through every few steps until your frustration overcomes your laziness and you stop, unclip the snowshoes, and put them on your feet. Sweet relief!

Until even those can't hack it. I reached this avalanche chute - and man, those things are false advertisers! They look all white and glisteny and inviting, and then you start walking up them and even your snowshoes don't cut it.

I'd take a step and sink in up to my waist, falling forward on both hands. So I thought I'd be smart and walk up it on my hands and feet. Not so smart. My feet couldn't get a purchase. I'd step and scramble with my snowshoes, essentially running in place, churning out crystalline snow in my wake. Then I'd stop and side-step and gain two inches. It was HARD. It took me the most arduous 30 minutes of my life to get up the damn thing. I really thought I was getting somewhere, because I saw patches of rocks (oh, sweet rocks) leading up to the summit. Ha! That was the kicker...

There were more steep patches of snow in between the rocks. I persisted until I'd been out 4 hours. At about 1/2 (grisly) mile from the summit, I decided that Yale would just have to wait for me to grace its top. I had eaten my lunch, 2 Gus, Shot Bloks and jerky and finally caught on that no amount of fuel was going to get the spring back in my legs. I'd given Yale the the ol' college try and it had shown itself to be the BMOC. So I gave up and started down. And that was even hard. Did you hear me?? Glissading down was hard. Without warning, I'd drop through the crust and end up with a pile of snow in my craw. That quite impeded progress.

When I reached the tree line, things finally leveled out a bit and - the sun was out en force. It was 52 degrees and so bright. The mountains were in bas relief against the blue sky, the trees were in bas relief against the snow... it was purdy. I couldn't stay peeved. It felt so nice and warm. I slowed down and took a ton of pictures, frolicked, and just looked at stuff. All told, I was in there 6 hours.

Attempt concluded, I drove out to the main road in the teeny town of Buena Vista and - surprise, surprise - turned the wrong way on the highway. I realized it within a mile so turned around. I took it as a sign that I was supposed to stop somewhere and indulge the strange craving I'd been having. I ate a cheeseburger. I haven't eaten a burger in 15 years. I pulled off at this mom & pop place that had a lot of cars in the parking lot (that is my new #1 restaurant- choosing strategy) and ordered the quarter-pounder with cheese. It was charbroiled deliciousness.

That helped me get my head on right - and served as the icing on the cake for a perfect DNS.